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Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Apr 15, 2010 10:51pm

blog all kindle-clipped locations part I

Matt Jones took my old "blog all dog-eared pages" habit and adapted it for the Amazon Kindle, resulting in the less-than-satisfying name "blog all Kindle-clipped locations" after the Kindle's internal position marker. Even this is a problematic name, since much of my reading on the device is mediated through Instapaper, whose new delivery mechanism augments a single document collection with new reading material. position is discarded as new material arrives.

Still, I continue to be happy with the Kindle's place in my life, in a way that the iPad seemingly hasn't captured. Amazon's device is calm, thin, and light where Apple's is bright, fat, and heavy. It actually surprised me what a slug it was, even though I still remember seeing a 16 pound "Macintosh Portable" from the pre-Powerbook days of high school. I like its passive role as a simple reading tablet, and the way that not having a touch screen means not having a touched screen. Although Instapaper is probably available for iPad, I like that it's not a proper application for the Kindle, but rather just a way of shooting bookmarked articles to myself when I occasionally switch on the network for more articles to read.

The thing is that there have been a lot of articles - the clippings here are selections from almost four months of reading. That's too much to collect without archiving somehow, so what follows is a bit of a slag heap. I'm breaking it up into three separate blog posts (parts II and III).

The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

First up are a few excerpts from George Kennan's 1946 The Sources Of Soviet Conduct, an adaptation of his famous Long Telegram. This essay was an influential, seminal work in the Cold War.

On aggressive intransigence:

It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

On the core concept of antagonism and mistrust in Soviet ideology:

The first of these concepts is that of the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism. We have seen how deeply that concept has become imbedded in foundations of Soviet power. It has profound implications for Russia's conduct as a member of international society. It means that there can never be on Moscow's side an sincere assumption of a community of aims between the Soviet Union and powers which are regarded as capitalist. It must inevitably be assumed in Moscow that the aims of the capitalist world are antagonistic to the Soviet regime, and therefore to the interests of the peoples it controls. If the Soviet government occasionally sets it signature to documents which would indicate the contrary, this is to regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy (who is without honor) and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor. Basically, the antagonism remains. It is postulated. And from it flow many of the phenomena which we find disturbing in the Kremlin's conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness, the lack of frankness, the duplicity, the wary suspiciousness, and the basic unfriendliness of purpose. These phenomena are there to stay, for the foreseeable future.

On the unending patience in Soviet tactics:

Its political action is a fluid stream which moves constantly, wherever it is permitted to move, toward a given goal. Its main concern is to make sure that it has filled every nook and cranny available to it in the basin of world power. But if it finds unassailable barriers in its path, it accepts these philosophically and accommodates itself to them. The main thing is that there should always be pressure, unceasing constant pressure, toward the desired goal. There is no trace of any feeling in Soviet psychology that that goal must be reached at any given time.

Questioning Capitalist Realism

I've linked to the writings of K-Punk, a.k.a. Mark Fisher, many times in the past, mostly his writings on music and the "hardcore continuum". Mark is where I first heard of Zomby, who made it to my 2009 oft-played tracks (I'm not sure what it says that I get my cutting edge music from an academic). In an interview with Fisher about his book, Matthew Fuller asks about the division of responsibility between the state and the individual. I like Mark's idea of the "privatization of stress", which seems doubly relevant in the aftermath of a nationwide healthcare debate:

The privatization of stress is central to capitalist realism. If they are "stressed", workers in overloaded institutions are encouraged, not to complain about their workload, but to engage in the kind of performance auditing activities which contributed to their distress in the first place. The question is no longer, "how did work cause you to be unwell?", but "what about you made you unable to do your job properly?" An individual-therapeutic model of stress deflects any structural account of how the stress arose.

Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?

Just this sentence, really:

Mr. Saloner says Stanford wants its business students to develop "a lens that brings some kind of principled set of scales to the problem." In other words, he says, students need to learn to ask themselves, "In whose interest am I making the decision?"

The Art of War

Eyal Weizman's 2006 article about IDF urban warfare tactics turned on my full range of Greenfield/Slavin receptors. Mostly, though, it made me incredibly angry. On the one hand, the application of critical theory to warfare is superficially interesting. On the other, it's repulsive in its excuse-making for the forcible takedown of the public/private boundary, and insulting in its implication that an understanding of decostruction is necessary to hammer through walls. A lot of this is just basic reaction to facts-on-the-ground and convenient forgetting of the Geneva Conventions.

To begin with, soldiers assemble behind the wall and then, using explosives, drills or hammers, they break a hole large enough to pass through. Stun grenades are then sometimes thrown, or a few random shots fired into what is usually a private living-room occupied by unsuspecting civilians. When the soldiers have passed through the wall, the occupants are locked inside one of the rooms, where they are made to remain - sometimes for several days - until the operation is concluded, often without water, toilet, food or medicine. Civilians in Palestine, as in Iraq, have experienced the unexpected penetration of war into the private domain of the home as the most profound form of trauma and humiliation.

I still struggle a bit with this article. I'm fascinated by the idea that different professions see reality as a different set of affordances, but at some point this just devolves into a game of dressing up destruction and abuse.

I then asked him, why not Derrida and Deconstruction? He answered, "Derrida may be a little too opaque for our crowd. We share more with architects; we combine theory and practice. We can read, but we know as well how to build and destroy, and sometimes kill."

The conscription of Gordon Matta-Clark here is a bridge too far. "Un-walling", really?

Future military attacks on urban terrain will increasingly be dedicated to the use of technologies developed for the purpose of "un-walling the wall", to borrow a term from Gordon Matta-Clark. This is the new soldier/architect's response to the logic of "smart bombs". The latter have paradoxically resulted in higher numbers of civilian casualties simply because the illusion of precision gives the military-political complex the necessary justification to use explosives in civilian environments.

A sort of justification:

When the military talks theory to itself, it seems to be about changing its organizational structure and hierarchies. When it invokes theory in communications with the public - in lectures, broadcasts and publications - it seems to be about projecting an image of a civilized and sophisticated military. And when the military "talks" (as every military does) to the enemy, theory could be understood as a particularly intimidating weapon of "shock and awe", the message being: "You will never even understand that which kills you."

Continued in part II...

Comments (1)

  1. "Greenfield/Slavin receptors"!!! AH hahahahahaha, excellent.

    Posted by AG on Friday, April 16 2010 12:57am PDT

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